A huge, bright historic building in Mexico
Posted: 1/12/21 | January 12th, 2021

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Sometimes, no matter how much you want something, the universe seems to conspire against you.

While I believe you make your own fate, I do think the universe has a way of saying, “Hey, the timing isn’t right. You should rethink your plans.”

So it was with my move to Mexico.

Last year, I wrote how I had planned to move there for the winter.

I needed a mental break, wanted to save money by renting out my apartment, and had a number of friends living there. My goal was to work, eat tacos, have a little social bubble, and spend a lot of time socially distanced at the beach.

But, thanks to a new management company that refused to allow me to sublease my apartment, those plans withered away. And while I’m not above having someone live there “under the radar,” most people in Texas need a car — and a parking pass for my building would definitely require my property management company’s approval.

Thus there would be no winter in Mexico for me.

But I discovered something during this process: Mexico is awesome.

Yes, I know I’m late to this party. So late that the hosts are cleaning the dishes and asking me where the heck I was all night.

Mexico is not some undiscovered land. Nowhere I went could be considered “off the beaten path.”

But while it was not my first time in the country — I’d briefly touched its shores as part of a cruise and once spent three days in a resort on a press trip way back in 2011 — it was my first time really seeing it.

Before this trip, I never gave Mexico much thought. It’s just a few hours away from Austin, so I had always figured I could go there anytime. Why visit Mexico when I could see French Polynesia instead?

People rarely explore their own backyard. To many, travel is about long flights and faraway destinations.

So it was for me for a long time. Though in recent years Mexico rose higher on my list of places to visit as more friends raved about it, it just never seemed to make it to the top. I’d make plans to go, only to be distracted by a shiny object (i.e., some other country).

Oh, how I regret that after seeing what I’d been missing!

Mexico is magical.

In the six weeks I was there, I spent close to three in Tulum (which was terrible), one in Playa del Carmen, five days in the Yucatán, and two weeks in Oaxaca.

The original plan was to spend a few weeks in Tulum then move to Playa del Carmen, where some friends lived. We’d form our little social bubble, and I’d get some work done and stay until March. But by week three, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I hated Tulum and I didn’t really vibe with Playa. (Here’s a long post on why I hated Tulum in case you missed it.)

Playa was nice. There was a lovely beach, some good restaurants and bars, and lots of digital nomads. I can see myself going back, meeting people, and partying on the beach. But in the age of COVID, that’s not what I wanted to do, so Playa didn’t really feel like the place to be right now.

Between that and my apartment situation, I realized my stay in Mexico was coming to an earlier end than planned.

But what to do with my remaining time that was also COVID safe?

A relaxing park in Mexico

While in Tulum, a friend and I took a car to Yucatán — which was like crossing over into Shangri-La. Suddenly, the roads got better. Masks were being worn everywhere, there were restrictions on group sizes, and business hours were limited. Here was somewhere that took COVID seriously — and I loved it. The area felt safe, and its case count (only a few dozen a week in the entire state) reflected that.

It was also the first time since I landed that I really felt like I was in another country, not someplace designed for tourists who wanted a “safe” version of Mexico. I loved the Spanish architecture, the incredible and diverse cuisine, and, of course — as clichéd as it is — the people. So many people just wanted to stop and talk, and I felt a lot of hospitality there.

In Mérida, we found Mezcalería La Fundación, a mezcal bar recommended by a few bloggers, but it seemed closed. On a whim, I decided to walk around the block to this hot dog restaurant I had seen and ask if they knew if the bar would be open later.

“The bar closed permanently because of the pandemic,” she replied.

“Crap,” I said turning to my friend. “I guess we’ll go to the market now.”

The server turned to the other guy in the shop and, in Spanish too fast for me to understand, started talking, and then turned to me. “This guy will take you to a place nearby. It’s very good.”

So we followed a stranger back down the street toward the closed mezcal bar. At first, I thought there had been some miscommunication, but he knocked on another door instead, one so barely noticeable I had walked past it twice. A man came out, words were spoken, and we were told to go in.

“Whoa,” I exclaimed. “We’re in a mezcal speakeasy!” I was beaming, as I love speakeasies and…

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